Last month, I wrote an essay for Vancouver Is Awesome about Charles Montgomery’s fantastic new book Happy City, and how it perfectly articulated our family’s own decade-long journey from the suburbs of Toronto to the heartbeat of Vancouver. In the coming months, I’m going to share with you the experiences unique to this city that fill us with pride, joy and excitement; allowing us to build a happier city, just by living it.
If you follow me anywhere on social media, you are likely aware of my (not-so-) dirty little secret: when I’m not riding or thinking about bicycles, I am usually obsessing about the game of football. Not the poorly named American version you might spot between beer and truck commercials for a few months in the autumn, but The Beautiful Game: played year-round by a quarter billion people in over 200 countries. It is communal. It is tribal. It is tradition. It is ninety minutes of grace, athleticism, and strategy; and while you will certainly find a great deal on television of late, you simply cannot beat experiencing it in the flesh.
Having spent the first ten years of my life in the Midlands of England, I guess you could say I was born with the game in my blood. Like many of my friends, not only did I learn to kick a ball from the moment I could walk, but some of my earliest memories were of standing on the terraces of Highfield Road next to my father. There we witnessed the trials and tribulations of Coventry City F.C. (long before the Premier League era), including the Sky Blues’ famous and unlikely F.A. Cup victory in 1987.
Our family immigrated to Canada in 1990, and the opportunities to follow my passion first-hand were virtually non-existent. But all of that changed on the afternoon of Saturday, March 19th, 2011, when I had the privilege of experiencing the first match of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Major League Soccer era: a 4-2 drubbing of Canadian rivals Toronto F.C., alongside my dad (and 27,500 others) in the temporary, but memorable confines of Empire Field on the PNE grounds.
That unforgettable afternoon reignited a passion that had sat dormant for twenty years. It is an infatuation that now finds me standing in the south side of B.C. Place every two weeks, shouting until my throat is hoarse, and clapping until my hands are raw.
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